Consolidating Spend Management Boosts Visibility

It’s not unusual for a company to have one set of tools for accounts payable (AP), a completely different set for expense reimbursements, and another set for corporate cards — and for these systems to only handle U.S. payments and the needs of a U.S.-based workforce.

Add in the complexity of a remote global workforce and multiply that by the number of countries a global company may operate in, and administration, visibility and control become even more challenging for accounting teams.

“It’s confusing for them, too — not only just for the admins, but for the users to know how and where to spend money,” Kelly Hicks, global controller at Airbase, told PYMNTS.

But software vendors have been hard at work on the problem over the past few years. They’ve created consolidated platforms that let administrators and employees handle all of the flows associated with all non-payroll spending. This includes all the procure-to-pay form inputs and approvals all the way through payment and reporting — in one system.

“Systems have really come a long way in allowing us to do that,” Hicks said.

See also: Virtual Cards Become Swiss Army Knife of Spend Management in a Work-From-Home World

Creating One Source of Truth

Having a consolidated payment platform benefits the organization in several ways, Hicks said. By simplifying user administration, enabling integration of the platform with a human resources (HRIS) platform and syncing information to the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system or GL, it streamlines the whole process.

“This frees up time for your team to really look at the data, analyze the outputs and really make sure you’re focusing on the right part of the process — and not just making sure they’re all connected, adding users and answering questions about all the different tools,” Hicks said.

Another benefit involves the visibility and reporting on that data. It’s much easier to get information about up-to-the-minute expenses and spending trends from a single system. It’s also easier to implement consistent controls across the entire organization.

“If you’re creating this one source of truth for everyone to go, and that’s where they spend money, you really can leverage those workflows,” Hicks said. “You’re letting the organization do what they should be doing, which is building their function and driving that forward, and not worry about how they need to get the right approval for these funds, or the best way to do it or which system to go to.”

Leveraging Technology to Adapt to Change

An August 2021 PYMNTS study found that 36% of U.S. and U.K. companies plan to innovate their spend management and expense controls.

Read more: PYMNTS’ August 2021 Corporate Spend Playbook

Several factors are driving this, Hicks said. First, the tools available today are much better than they were a few years ago, so companies are now able to use them to build a best-in-class system.

In addition, companies have learned that they need to be more adaptable in light of broader uncertainty — better visibility into the numbers enables them to do that. The shift to a remote workforce has also contributed to the adoption.

“People are realizing that leveraging that kind of technology helps them change and adapt to any sort of changes that come our way quickly,” Hicks said.

There’s also a desire to reduce expense report violations — the number of which soared 292% in 2020 as employees suddenly working from home were confused about the eligibility of different expenses, PYMNTS found.

“If you put the tools in place, you really can help an employee realize how to spend company money,” Hicks said.



About: PYMNTS’ survey of 2,094 consumers for The Tailored Shopping Experience report, a collaboration with Elastic Path, shows where merchants are getting it right and where they need to up their game to deliver a customized shopping experience.

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